Best compression shorts 2022 for running and exercise

The best compression shorts for training, recovery reviewed and ranked. Plus, we'll explain how they can help you exercise more efficiently

Best compression shorts: Pictured here a person running on a track wearing Nike running shoes and compression shorts
(Image credit: Nike)

How do the best compression shorts work? If the science is to be believed, the compression of these fabrics can help increase blood and lymphatic flow to the legs that it is stretched around and is therefore said to improve performance and shorten recovery time for wearers.

As you’re probably aware, the compression part of such shorts refers to the super tight aspect of the garment made from a spandex-type material. When it comes to shorts, this usually either sits on the inside of a two-part short, like built-in underwear inside a more loose outer fabric, or it can be what the short is entirely made up of.

They might be almost impossible to get on, but once you’ve slipped into and tried out some good quality compression shorts, you’ll almost immediately understand their benefits. They’ll also help keep you warm when exercising in the great outdoors during those chillier months.

What are the main benefits of compression shorts? This guide will tell you all you need to know before buying your first (or next) pair of compression shorts for running or exercise.

Best compression shorts you can buy right now

On Hybrid Shorts on white backgroundT3 Best Buy badge

(Image credit: On)

1. On Hybrid Shorts

Best compression shorts overall

Specifications

Composition: 100% polyester inner shorts, 71% polyamide 29% elastane outer
Sizes available: S-XXL
Care instructions: Machine wash at 30 degrees max

Reasons to buy

+
Modular system 
+
Lightweight
+
Fast drying

Reasons to avoid

-
 Super spenny

We hold our hands up, the price of the On Hybrid Shorts is a bit ridiculous for a piece of clothing that’s going to spend most of its time covered in sweat, but there’s a lot of tech inside this pair of shorts so we’re willing to let it slide.

Let’s explain how.

Designed for multi-purpose fitness, On’s Hybrid Shorts are incredibly versatile thanks to their “modular system”. That’s right, the compression element can be detached from the lightweight, fast-drying outer so they can be used as either simple, one-layer compression shorts, light shorts without compression, or a combination of both.

The outer is also made from a sweat-wicking fabric that helps cool you down while you put the miles in. They're soft to touch, making them comfortable, but they’re also strong with lots of support in the right places.

2XU Light Speed Compression Shorts on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: 2XU)

2. 2XU Light Speed Compression Shorts

Best compression shorts for running

Specifications

Composition: Lightweight PWX fabric with circular knit 360-degree stretch
Sizes available: S-XXL
Care instructions: Machine wash in cold water with like colours

Reasons to buy

+
High-quality materials and design

Reasons to avoid

-
Garish logo design is not for everyone

These Light Speed Compression Shorts by 2XU boast a super cool Muscle Containment Stamping (MCS) technology which has been developed with what 2XU says is a “detailed understanding of the impact running has on the legs”. This helps to reduce muscle movement, damage and fatigue and help boost performance, especially when it comes to running.

These shorts might be pricey but 2XU has done a great job in getting the balance between compression and comfort just right, meaning the shorts don’t intrude on the enjoyment of your run. That’s imperative if you’re wearing them for long-distance efforts, where the slightest niggle caused by clothing can become the worst-case scenario, especially when you’ve got some serious mileage ahead of you. 

Zone3 Men's Compression 2-In-1 Phantom Shorts on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Zone3)

3. Zone3 Men's Compression 2-In-1 Phantom Shorts

Best compression shorts for men

Specifications

Composition: A wicking outer short combined with a microfiber inner short
Sizes available: XS-XXL
Care instructions: N/A

Reasons to buy

+
Reflective accents for night runs
+
Lightweight

Reasons to avoid

-
Leg length might prove too long for some
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Only one inner pocket 

This lightweight 2-in-1 training short is a stripped-down version of athletic wear company Zone3’s super popular cross-training, running and gym shorts. Combining the looks of a conventional workout short with the benefits of a full compression short, the Phantom Shorts have been designed with performance in mind and are said to help increase blood flow, reduce lactic acid build-up and improve recovery times.

In terms of fabrics, you’ll find a comfortable sweat-wicking outer combined with a microfiber inner compression short that provides added support. The downside? You’ll only find one pocket and the leg length might be a little too long for those who prefer a higher cut short.

ALO High-Waist Biker Short on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: ALO)

4. ALO High-Waist Biker Short

Best compression shorts for women

Specifications

Composition: Sculpting signature Airbrush fabric
Sizes available: XXS-L
Care instructions: Wash separately. Machine wash cold and tumble dry on gentle cycle

Reasons to buy

+
Structured design helps sculpt and lift the body
+
Super comfortable 
+
High-quality fabrics 
+
Super stretchy yet strong

Reasons to avoid

-
Only plain designs available

Yoga brand Alo is not that well known in the UK just yet, but it should be. Not only does this outfit do clothing aimed predominantly at yogis, but it’s got its own on-demand fitness streaming platform with an incredible array of classes on offer.

Made with the company’s lifting and sculpting Airbrush fabric, the High-Waist Biker Short has a high waist design moisture-wicking technology and a four-way stretch that moves with you. This means they’re incredibly comfortable - enough so for all-day wear, never mind just workouts.

Decathlon Evadict on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Decathlon)

5. Decathlon Evadict

Best cheap compression shorts

Specifications

Composition: Main fabric 80% Polyamide, 20% Elasthane Yoke 76% Polyamide, 24% Elasthane
Sizes available: See below
Care instructions: Machine wash 30-degrees max - gentle

Reasons to buy

+
Structured design helps sculpt and lift the body
+
Super comfortable 
+
High-quality fabrics 
+
Super stretchy yet strong

Reasons to avoid

-
Only plain designs available
-
Weird sizing options

These Decathlon shorts are so cheap, you could buy almost three pairs for the same price as the most expensive pair on our list. That aside, these shorts aren’t going to cleverly wick away the sweat that seeps from your lower legions like you’d expect more premium offers to, but they will be a great cheap alternative if you’re on a tight budget looking for the most bang for your buck.

On top of that, the quality is actually much better than you’d expect for something at this price, offering some great muscle compression during your workout. They even have compression zones that are strategically placed on your thighs to give you the compression where you need it the most. Clever stuff!

How to find the best compression shorts for you

There are a couple of things you should look out for when you’re in the market for a new pair of compression shorts. First off, ask yourself what you’ll be using them for. If you intend on doing lots of dynamic moving and sweating - say, for a run or a yoga class - you might want to go for a lighter fabric that’ll stretch with you but has the built-in compression just adding some extra support.

However, it’s for weighted workouts with lots of load-bearing, it might be that you opt for a really well structured and thicker pair of compression shorts to give you maximum support. 

Pockets are also something to think about. Many brands design compression shorts with small back pockets only big enough to fit a pair of keys inside. If you need something to keep your phone in while exercising, it’s worth taking this into consideration.

How much do compression shorts cost?

Usually, the shorter, lighter fabric shorts can be the most expensive, especially when it comes to running. This might seem a bit backwards but sometimes this can be down to the manufacturer using an incredibly lightweight, and thus expensive, sweat-wicking fabric that takes the sweat away from your skin despite it being wrapped around it.

Are compression shorts worth it?

The short answer to that is, yes but that depends on how often you work out. As they are generally more expensive than your bog-standard shorts, it’s not worth investing in a super fancy pair you’re only going to wear a few times. Due to the tech involved and their ability to improve performance and reduce recovery time, we’d only really recommend investing in a pair if you’re exercising often, like 2-3 days per week. 

Lee Bell is a freelance journalist & copywriter specialising in technology, health, grooming and how the latest innovations are shaking up the lifestyle space. From national newspapers to specialist-interest magazines and digital titles, Lee has written for some of the world’s most respected publications during his 11 years as a journalist.